A water main break gushed 1.1 million gallons early Thursday in Durango, much of which turned to ice in and around Miller Middle School’s parking lot and access roads.
Durango School District 9-R bused students to the La Plata County Fairgrounds to start their day. The break did not damage the school, but it did create access issues, said Julie Popp, district spokeswoman.
The city of Durango closed the intersection at 25th Street and West Second Avenue to deal with the water main break.
Durango Utilities Director Steve Salka said temperatures dipped to almost 10 below zero overnight Wednesday – so cold that as soon as water hit the surface it froze and encased a valve box crews needed to access to turn off the flow. The break was reported about 4 a.m., and water wasn’t shut off until almost 10 a.m.
The city used propane flames to melt the ice.
“The cold is what’s really slowing us down,” Salka said Thursday morning. “It just gets so bitter cold at night and the ground is shifting and it’s snapping out these pipes, and that’s what’s hurting us.”
Pipe breaks have been an ongoing problem for the city this winter. Salka said the frost layer is moving deeper into the ground, which shifts the ground and pulls and bends the iron pipes. When replacing them, it’s important to use pipes that can flex and bend more than the existing pipes in the ground, he said.
The pipe that burst Thursday morning had a crack that was almost 10 feet in length, he said.
City crews were up until at least 2 a.m. Thursday dealing with another water main break in the 2900 block of Mesa Avenue, near Riverview Elementary School. That break unleashed 200,000 gallons of water, he said.
“I was freezing to death last night, and I wasn’t soaking wet,” Salka said. “When you look at your guys and all they want is, ‘Get me out of this cold water, I can’t take it much longer,’ it’s tough. The public doesn’t realize what these guys go through to make sure they have water the next day.”